NEW BEDFORD — Later this month, the City Council will order a special election for the Ward 3 council seat — likely to take place in January and February — now that it has received an official resignation letter from City Councilor Hugh Dunn.
The council clerk received official notice from Dunn on Nov. 10, about five days after he announced his resignation on a WBSM radio show.
“Please accept this letter as my official resignation from the Office of New Bedford Ward Three City Councillor. My resignation shall take effect as of midnight on December 3, 2022,” reads the two-sentence letter.
While the notice does not cite any reasons for resigning, Dunn told WBSM radio hosts that he was leaving his elected position due to a long commute for his job in Boston at a personal injury law firm, which he announced joining in April of 2022.
Dunn was re-elected to the City Council in November of 2021 after running unopposed, with his two-year term starting in January of 2022.
Per the city’s code, “If a vacancy occurs, before the last six (6) months of the term in the office of a councilor elected by and from the voters of a ward, the city council shall forthwith order an election to fill such vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term.”
City spokesperson Holly Huntoon said by email that the estimated cost for a special election for Ward 3 could be between $8,000 and $15,000.
Manuel DeBrito, election commissioner for the city, said it’ll probably be closer to $15,000 to pay for the ballots, voting location rental fees, poll workers and police detail.
DeBrito said he’ll have to create an election calendar, and anticipated the primary (if there are at least three candidates) would take place in late January and the final election in late February.
He’s already seen a few people come into the office to express interest in running for the ward seat. They will need at least 50 signatures to run.
Dunn told WBSM that his decision was solely a career move. His resignation comes less than one month after he stood trial for an OUI charge following a May 2021 car crash.
A New Bedford district court judge found Dunn not guilty of OUI, stating the commonwealth did not meet the legal bar of beyond a reasonable doubt.
“You very well may have been operating under the influence, but I have to find beyond a reasonable doubt that you were, and given the conflicting testimony in this case, you’re entitled to the benefit of that doubt,” Judge Joseph Harrington told the courtroom.
For the charges of leaving the scene and negligent operation of a vehicle, the judge said there was no question the commonwealth had enough evidence, but given Dunn admitted to those two charges and his lack of a criminal history, the findings were continued for one year with Dunn under probation for that time.
City Council President Ian Abreu said per city code, the council will issue the order to hold the special election at its next full council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 22. He previously said he is willing to meet with anyone who may be interested in running to discuss the process.
DeBrito said there are an estimated 10,500 registered voters in Ward 3. During the 2021 election, in which Dunn ran unopposed, turnout for the Ward 3 seat was under 500 votes.
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